In total, 10 of my 13 years in Seattle Public Schools involved long rides on a school bus. Between the ages of 6 and 9 alone, I logged thousands of miles looking at the city from a green vinyl seat. This is true for thousands of Seattleites. Seattle Public Schools used busing from the late 1970s through the mid-2000s in the hopes of achieving racial integration. To give just one snapshot of the program's breadth: In 1980, mandatory busing involved 12,000 of the district's 54,000 students.He has one pretty funny line (but I'm not sure if he meant it to be funny):
It was watching the OJ verdict with black kids and getting so caught up, I joyfully sprinted in the halls with them for a second.About that history of how busing came to Seattle:
Six weeks after the school board's vote to expand Seattle's integrated busing program, the Citizens for Voluntary Integration Committee (CIVIC) launched a ballot initiative to prohibit students from going to schools that were across the city from their homes. Sixty percent of Seattleites voted "yes" for this initiative. Though the initiative was deemed unconstitutional two years later by the US Supreme Court, its broad local support revealed deep fissures among Seattleites and, in general, insufficient dedication to integrating our city's schools.On the Supreme Court ruling that ended Seattle's use of race as a tiebreaker:
In 2000, a group in Seattle called Parents Involved in Community Schools sued the district, claiming the policy violated a ban on using racial preferences in public education. Their case, which became paired with a similar Louisville case, arrived at the US Supreme Court in 2006. The high court, drastically altering the legacy of Brown, concluded that public schools couldn't use race as the sole determining factor for assigning students to schools. Though Louisville—with waves of public support—vowed to figure out another means to integrate its schools, Seattle shrugged. Here, the new Supreme Court decision was welcomed. Our city's attempts at using busing to integrate our schools ended—not because integration failed, but because Seattle failed integration.I'd have to go see what Louisville did but I can't blame SPS for being gun-shy. The Court said you could use race as part of a whole plan but didn't really say how. I suspect districts were worried about how to use race after that. (But here's a NY Times story on a pilot program that uses socio-economic status to create diversity.)
Here's what he says about Louisville:
Because home buyers in Louisville knew that all schools had the same racial composition and were provided the same resources, housing segregation in Louisville actually decreased by 20 percent from 1990 to 2010.I could see how that could work to provide diversity but that must be some interesting enrollment plan. As for "same resources" that's a bit of a tough nut because of the programs that exist and what students they service.
Sir Mix-A-Lot, who was bused from the Central District to Eckstein and later Roosevelt, called busing "the best thing that could have happened to me."His fear as a teacher:
More than any other feeling—and I have many—when I think of the vast differences in Seattle's public schools today, I grieve more than I rage. All kids are missing out on the opportunity to know one another, to know "the other," to envision new ways to be and understand.His solutions?
-First off, the Seattle Public School District—a district that currently disciplines black kids four times more often than whites—must immediately increase professional development around culturally responsive and socially just instruction.
This is already on the Superintendent's list.
- Seattle teachers should also blaze the trail on creating cross-district and inter-district collaborations.
- Writers in the Schools (WITS) and I are currently developing a collaborative writing project between Blaine and South End middle schools.
- In the long-term, I propose something called the Seattle Civics Academy. Pulling students from all over the district, this would be a semester-long program that all Seattle high-school students would participate in at some point in their school careers. They would get to choose when, but no student could opt out—the overwhelming flaw in Seattle's integration plan.
Locally, we need to be asking ourselves and our neighbors: Do we truly think we are better separate than together?
I had several comments, in particular around cost which Mr. Riley doesn't mention at all and it certainly would cost more to better integrate our schools.
My other comments:
But the district has the power to control the boundaries and NOT create more segregation and yet, they are doing it as we speak. They are reopening a school in the far NE called Cedar Park that will end up hugely as kids of color/free/reduced lunch. The current schools that serve these students - Olympic Hills and John Rogers - do NOT want these kids to leave their schools for the precise reasons Mr. Riley points out. To add insult to injury, the Cedar Park kids get a crummy old building with probably the smallest library in the district plus about 6 portables while Olympic Hills will get a brand-new shiny building for mostly white kids. It's just appalling but so far, staff doesn't seem to get it.
He did have one other statement that caught my eye:
"The sudden flurry to efficiently help poor kids resulted not in a radical reinvention of schooling, but a ratcheting up of tasks and stress. "
When I read that sentence, the first phrase that came to mind? Charter schools. Want to see segregation? Look at the divide in many charter schools and who they serve.